Tennessee NOT Ready, Again!

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I’ve sat each day since Monday wanting to write and each day, something else changes that compounds my feelings and thoughts as both a parent and educator.

Each day, I have placed hope in a system that consistently fails me. I feel like I’m a devout Christian, living out the WWJD? mantra in a loveless marriage with a habitual liar. I keep turning the other cheek and getting hit again...

As of today, the TN Ready tests that some students have taken since Monday will not count this year against teachers or students. The scores will not be used for teacher evaluations nor will it negatively impact students.

According to various news outlets,  the “Tennessee General Assembly struck a deal on Thursday that said the testing results will only count if it benefits students, educators and districts.”

Only if it benefits…

It is no secret that I have taught in the poorest neighborhoods in Memphis, in schools that have been taken-over by the state for their years of “failing” test scores. These schools were adopted by charter management organizations who have labeled themselves as “turn-around” schools (stay tuned for a subsequent blog about this term and the actual results).

It is these schools that won’t produce beneficial scores.

It is these students who have, once again, been failed.

Let’s not mention the fact that many are subject to teachers who lack the experience and pedagogy to hone their practice of teaching in order to not teach to the test, which has in Tennessee, changed almost each year since 2013 (when I arrived).

It is these students who have endured countless hours of instruction while their teachers tried to close the “achievement gap” with individualized instruction, small group instruction, homework, and even double-blocks of reading and math.

The decision makers of Tennessee has once again failed my students.

I can’t speak for all students, but I do speak for my black students, who believed in themselves and their abilities because I intentionally sought to build their confidence and efficacy while strengthening their foundational reading skills. They were proud to sit and try their best these last few days. They didn’t give up and get frustrated with words they didn’t know, nor did they give up in frustration because their academic endurance isn’t like their more affluent counterparts.

It is these students whose scores won’t be “beneficial” because they won’t be Proficient or Advanced. But I knew that.

It is these students who won’t be able to see their growth or even try for the rest of the remaining testing days (over 2 weeks) because, it doesn’t count anyway.

I hate to say it, but I’m sick and tired of failing my students. I’m sick and tired of giving my all each day to a system that doesn’t respect anyone’s efforts, time, energy, and dedication.

How can a teacher stay motivated in a state that doesn’t have an effective system to measure knowledge acquired? How can parents believe their child is getting an adequate education that will be a foundation for the rest of their lives if the tests don’t count in the fundamental years?

And why the hell would a student, who has been accustomed to a lackluster school who skates by because there aren’t standardized tests to hold them accountable to excellence in education, even care about being better, being different, or giving more when their school year can be wiped away by end-of-year tests that don’t count?

I’m so disappointed; I’m physically ill.

There will always be those that think this is a good idea. Sure it is, when it isn’t executed properly, but WHEN will it be done properly? WHEN will Tennessee get it together? Why is it ok to play with students in this manner? Who doesn’t see this as another slap in the face to our black and brown students who are already underserved? Because in most cases, their scores won’t be beneficial.

It’s not like we’re the only state in the entire country that has schools. At this point, someone needs to phone a friend, get a lifeline and buddy up with a city that is executing properly and have them print up the tests. Tennessee clearly can’t get it together and we’re losing ground with the people we have in place now.

I said it before – excellence starts at the top. With who we have in charge, it’s no surprise things are the way they are.

 

Marlena Little

Educator, visionary and leader.

Marlena Little grew up in the inner-city of Chicago in one of the worst neighborhoods of the city. Yet the contrast of her home and school life provided evidence to the statement, “it’s not where you’ve been but where you are going”. Having attended one of the best elementary and high-schools in the country, she was determined to live beyond the poverty and violence of her neighborhood, knowing education was the escape.

Marlena Little, a Memphian by choice, relocated to Memphis to fight for educational equity. As a teacher, it was important for Marlena’s students to see her as an example of that escape. As an administrator, Marlena challenged teachers and staff to illuminate education as the way out, yet as a visionary, Marlena has created paths of escape.

As Founder of Life Prep Academy Schools, Marlena Little has seamlessly merged her childhood with the standard of excellence imbedded in her educational experiences to provide students, regardless of any “label”, the limitless opportunities a high-quality education affords.  Her philosophical beliefs about education are the guiding principles of Life Prep.

In addition to her many roles, Marlena Little is also a mother and forever learner.  She is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and has the pleasure of raising a nine-year-old daughter.